No parking news yet for Flying Iguana

Although Flying Iguana’s Attorney Paul Harden has indicated to San Marco Preservation Society officials that he has come up with a parking plan for Al Mansur’s newest restaurant, he has not yet shared anything concrete with the city, said City Council President Lori Boyer during a meeting with the San Marco Merchants Association Sept. 21 at Southside Baptist Church.

On Sept. 16, Harden contacted San Marco Preservation Society President LeAnna Cumber asking that she and Boyer get together with him to discuss his parking solution because he has hopes to move the application forward in early October, Boyer said.

“I reached out to the Planning Department and asked, ‘Have you seen a solution? Do you approve of the solution? Have you written a staff report?’ and the answer was no,” she said. “They don’t know anything about it. They haven’t seen anything, and they haven’t heard anything.”

At a special town hall meeting sponsored by the San Marco Preservation Society July 14, Harden agreed to adhere with the Preservation Society’s request to hold another town hall meeting prior to the application coming before the Planning Commission. There should be two weeks advanced notice given to the public prior to the Town Hall meeting, Boyer said.

“We are at least three or four weeks out because we don’t have a town hall meeting scheduled,” she said. “That is the update I can provide you. I have seen nothing in terms of what this parking solution might be nor has staff.”

Overland Bridge Project

The Overland Bridge Project, which is being constructed by the Florida Department of Transportation, is running five months behind schedule, said Boyer. Due to be completed by December of this year, the current estimate now is that construction on the project will be finished in late spring, she said.

The landscape phase will begin after construction has finished and has not yet been funded, Boyer said, noting she believes funding may be appropriated in July 2017 when the state budget is approved.

“There is always a delay between the construction phase and the landscape phase,” Boyer said. “I think that is unfortunate, but they (FDOT) finish everything then put their (landscape) design out to bid.”

During a meeting in early 2015, a small group of residents met with FDOT officials to discuss the landscaping part of the project, particularly around the retention pond near Atlantic Boulevard and Philips Highway as well as the “sound wall” near the South Shores neighborhood, she said.

At that time the group asked FDOT to landscape the pond area so that it would be an “attractive feature.” They also wanted the sound wall area “softened” because it backs up to a residential neighborhood, she said.

The group of residents was not as concerned about the portion of the project that backs up to the interstate, Boyer said. “DOT wants to put palm trees along there. That is their signature ‘Welcome to Florida’ image. We did not object to it, but in the other area we were looking for something other than palm trees,” she said, noting she has not yet seen a preliminary design for the landscaping.

Southbank parking

Boyer said she has been working with FDOT, the Downtown Investment Authority (DIA) and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) for more than a year seeking additional public parking under various bridges near the Southbank.

Potentially more than 500 spaces may be available to the public very soon, she said.

Specifically, she said there are two corner parking lots at the intersection of San Marco Boulevard and Prudential, which provide a total of 67 spaces, while under the Acosta Bridge next to River City Brewing there are 202 spaces which could provide public parking for those visiting the Southbank Riverwalk or the Museum of Science and History.

Under the Fuller Warren Bridge between Palm Avenue and San Marco Boulevard there is lot with approximately 100 spaces, which is currently used by Baptist Health and will continue that way until the Baptist completes construction of its new parking structure planned for the Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, she said. “During the construction phase, they are willing for it to be available on nights (after 5 p.m.) and weekends. It is a nice lot south of the railroad tracks that might be available from a shuttle perspective,” Boyer said.

Also in the mix is a lot directly across the street under the overpass near Sherwood’s Bar, located at 1105 San Marco Blvd. The JTA-controlled lot, which is leased by Baptist Health during the day, may become available for public parking nights and weekends under a separate negotiation with JTA, she said.

Also on Hendricks Avenue is a lot between Hendricks and Kings Road which is open for public parking, she said.

DIA has allocated $500,000 in its budget for lighting, striping and other things to make these parking lots available to the public, Boyer said. The budget was discussed by the City Council the last week of September.

“I would think you should expect that within a year and maybe in substantially less time these lots will be open and available,” Boyer told the merchants. “We’re in the process of negotiating the agreements and signing them now with DOT. It will take probably a couple of months, but that is something you can look forward to, and it should help merchants along Hendricks Avenue and along Kings Road and in the northern part of San Marco,” she said. “I know, depending on how those lots are used, that you have trolley discussions coming up. If another remote parking lot came up later, that might be helpful to you as well,” she said.

Future trolley for San Marco?

As Boyer alluded to, the San Marco Merchants Association is currently in discussions with JTA about leasing a shuttle or trolley service between the Square and various locations Downtown and on the Southbank, said Robert Harris at the SMMA meeting. So far three potential routes and numbers have been discussed for a service that might run between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., but nothing has been set in stone, he said.

“Lori (Boyer) grabbed me when I came in and told me not to discuss it in great detail,” Harris said, indicating that nothing has been finalized. “She wants to wait until things settle in.”

Harris said it would energize the area if they could get a shuttle run of any kind “that has San Marco written all over it.”

“We hope to shuttle people easily to and from downtown all along the corridor from I-95 up Hendricks, and up Kings,” said SMMA President Anita Vining. “We are branching out and we need to keep everyone connected.”

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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